Monday, May 31, 2010

This Month in Wingnuttery

Format changes continue with a tweak to my promised semi-regular feature on wingnuttery; by making it monthly it'll give me a chance to do a piece on schedule and allow me to use the far more convenient shotgun rhetoric those nutters love to use. What, with the oil gushing top kill reaching Cousteau shock and awe, it's time to set things right before it's too late. Who knew the term wingnut had so many different meanings? According to it's a nut having two flat, widely projecting pieces such that it can be readily tightened with the thumb and forefinger; the first definition on the urbandictionary is "An outspoken, irrational person with deeply-held, nominally conservative, political views. A person who chooses on principle to be flagrantly ignorant. A "right-wing nut". And wingnuttery? Well, for our purposes let's take it to be anyone who's parsimonious with the truth, often disguising this fact with allusions to god, guns and (smaller) government in order to advance a conservative agenda. Unbeknownst to me when I started this semi-regular (woohooo 2 editions!) feature, CNN has been running a similarly named feature for the past year, but they take a more "balanced" approach, naming a left and right wing freakshow of the moment. Here we don't need to maintain the faux illusion of fairness. We better hurry though, lots of ground to cover, from the Empress of Alaska down to the Gulf, duh, and then over to the home of wingnut civilization, the cradle of the big three Abrahamic religions, the Middle East and Israel.

America has of course become the capital of wingnuttery, or New Jerusalem if you will. Anywhere that someone of Sarah Palin's type can so easily stir a populist frenzy by flashing some MILF thigh and screeching some internet mined redneck jokes is in trouble. Coming within a heartbeat of being a heartbeat from the presidency was scary enough, but she seems to be on track for another run in a couple years, this time at the top of the Republican ticket. Wouldn't surprise me if she won as the very corporations that are busy destroying the world will be able to spend unlimited amounts on future elections thanks the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Money is speech for corporations with guaranteed freedom but the people whose lives they destroy don't have the money to buy voices.

The demi-governor of Alaska has been busy during this mid-term election primary season, throwing her support behind anyone willing to pay her appearance fees. With the attention span of a hummingbird on a nectar jag, she probably misses the hypocrisy and cruel irony of her choices. The Palin of 2008 pledged to "stop multi-million dollar payouts and golden parachutes" for executives who run their company into the ground. So why not support Carla Fiorini for Senate, a woman who oversaw the loss of over 50% in the value of Hewlett Packard only to walk away with a $45 million payout. Where did she run her company and what color was that parachute? Or Vaughn Ward, her choice to be the Republican congressional candidate from Idaho. Besides fulfilling the Palin geography requirement calling Puerto Rico a country, he also happened to lift a speech given by Barack Obama at the 2008 Democratic convention. Teleprompter anyone? Plagiarize much? How about Clint Didier for Senate in Washington blasting government intervention while taking $140,000 in federal farm subsidies. Not sexy enough? Ok, take Palin's pick for governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, who had an affair with a former co-worker in the governor's office.

Of course every time these stories come out, it's not the lack of proper vetting, exactly what allowed her to join the McCain ticket in '08 and launched her into the national spotlight, it's the 'lamestream' media's fault. These are somehow personal attacks which are "a violation of our press freedom", a curious claim coming from someone who supposedly studied journalism in college. Sure, she could've served out her term as governor and tried to leave a public service legacy while boning up on the issues in order to take a run at the presidency in 2012. God bless America, however, where the pursuit of wealth and fame trumps intellect and democracy every time. In order for a two-party system to function properly it's essential to have some kind of balance between the two choices. It's gotten to the point where the wingnuts have enough influence to grind the legislative process to a near halt, where 'no' isn't about belief but dogma. However, if the Palins and teabaggers have their way, come November the Republican slate of candidates will be so wingnut heavy as to be poisonous to democracy.

Check out the ad for the aforementioned Carly Fiorini against her FCINO (Fiscal Conservative in Name Only) opponent, really watch it to the end if you want to learn that good Republicans are sheep and don't have glowing red eyes. It only gets worse in Alabama where teacher's unions sponsor attack ads against gubernatorial candidates who believe in evolution and don't believe in the infallible truth of the bible. Or maybe you prefer a candidate who made her fortune specializing in blood, seminaked women and scripted subplots featuring rape, adultery and familial violence. Sounds like a surefire way to get elected in a NASCAR friendly state like Alabama, but it was the Connecticut Republican party who chose Linda McMahon to be their candidate for the senate. Rand has even come back, no not a brain-eating zombie named Aynthis time as a first name as Rand Paul took a step to joining dad Ron in the senate. Sure they call themselves libertarians, but they're just racists who want to repeal civil rights and abolish the department of education while keeping medicare cheques rolling in, after all, an optometrist needs to earn a living, right? These are the people who will be screaming for deregulation as the world eats itself up and if you dare to blame a corporation, you are un-American.

Palin and her ilk's drill baby drill bit is the reason the Gulf of Mexico is witnessing the craziest shit we've seen in awhile. A wingnut's job in times like this is to call this Obama's Katrina to try to take the blame off of our society's insatiable need for a black-gooey resource that is getting harder and harder to extract, oil sands anyone? Even wingnuttier is the fact they'll still be holding the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, for which I will grant them the honor of being my first wingnuts of the month. Even as the new oil ecosystem hovers and splashes onto their coasts wiping out the entire fishing industry with it, they still plan to celebrate the 75th edition of the festival. It is the diamond jubilee after all. Who knows, maybe oil-dipped shrimp will be the wake up call to the fact that despite the states pro-business policies, they somehow still remain one of the poorest states in the union where the rich get richer while the poor, well, die. Too bad the media damage control spin has been more effective in dulling the outcry than the effort to control both the leak and the damage done to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. By low-balling the original estimates, much of the public has been softened up to the real amount of oil that is oozing relentlessly into the gulf.

Don't worry though you true believers in the capitalist system, as always, there's money to be made from tragedy. After all, the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska brought us the credit default swap who knows what weapon of financial destruction will be unleashed as a result of this latest disaster. The spill has already opened the opportunity to bet on the first species to become extinct in addition to creating a whole new reality TV genre, truly hypnotic, let's hope they don't get any ideas for spin-offs. Maybe the wingnuts truly believe that corporate rights should win out over human rights and that big oil would never knowingly do anything to endanger the planet. No, corporations should be just left on their own to do as they please like Chevron in Ecuador or Shell in Nigeria. If we could just get tort reform poor big oil wouldn't have to worry about silly environmental lawsuits and could back to the serious pursuit of profits.

Oh, in case you missed it, this tragedy reminds of another wingnut misconception. The one where all regulation is bad. The fact is bad regulation has the potential to be bad times two whereas none has infinite badness potential. Too bad the double bad in this case may turn out to be an unstoppable force of destruction of gooey destruction where top kills and junk shots don't relieve the pressure. Funny, the regulators charged with overseeing the oil and gas industry were doing the same thing as the financial regulators - jerking to porn while writing the rules that decide how you're buddies play the game. The MMS, or Interior Department's Minerals Management Service was staffed predominately by Dick Cheney's Dubya administration, yes that helps explain why Halliburton is so involved in this fiasco (they're a huge company thanks to government war and oil contracts my friends, let's hear it for the free market, yeah!). Obama was at the helm when this went down and had an opportunity to, pardon the expression, blue ball those bastards before blowing their bunk, but as with the financial oversight authorities, the old boys network was allowed to develop thanks to Dubya.

Anyway, the MMS collects royalties and writes the rules for the BP's and Exxon's and Chevron's sorta like Fitch's, Moody's and Standard and Poor's charges the financial industry for the ratings they provide. Do you think this opens the door to corruption? Well, gifts and cushy jobs are nice but it's the porn link that is almost too much, hey, these guys were all buddies, financial and oil good ol' boys, they naturally shared porn links. At work, oh, and the meth. One handers took down finance and now the gulf. Instead of focusing on why the BP spill response plan for the gulf seemed to be lifted directly from other plans we get the wingnut leader lord Limbaugh grunts towards those who may now question offshore drilling "what better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I'm just saying." A wingnut doesn't want us to know that deregulation and lax oversight is what allows the BP's and Halliburton's to fill in inspection forms in pencil for the MMS inspectors to write over in pen.

Those like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal want less government involvement except when they want more government involvement. Yet it's the Reagan in them that limited the liability of big oil corporations like BP after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, until just a few days ago America's worst environmental disaster, to $75 million. It might piss us off if we knew about BP's hand in exacerbating that Alaska mess back in 1989. Or, maybe even remember the 2005 BP refinery explosion in Texas killing 15 in 2005 or the 200,000 gallons leaked out of their Alaskan pipeline just a year later. It might upset people to know that the lives of those men in Texas could've been saved if BP had sprung for the more expensive facilities instead of penning them like pigs. Our blood would boil if we found out that even more egregiously, BP was using dispersant to break up the giant oil slicks that look so bad on TV which is only making the disaster worse and putting clean up worker's health at risk. It would be a public relations disaster, just like acknowledging there is a respiratory danger, so BP prevented fisherman helping in clean up efforts from wearing respiratorsPeople would get angry if they knew this was all just the cost of doing business, right? Especially if they found out that the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP, Transocean Ltd., decided to insure the rig for about twice what it was worth (don't ask me how they have more sense than insurance companies) and made a $270 million profit from insurance payouts thanks to the disaster.

The best way to keep stuff like this happening is to keep 'em dum (sic), Texas dumb that is. The Texas school board are doing their bit to keep the country ignorant, having finished it's ten year review of the history curriculum and deciding they didn't like it. History that is. So they've made some minor adjustments. Minor, if you consider Oscar Romero being bumped off by right-wingnuts for the second time because an ignoramus had never heard of him or omitting the achievements of a Founding Father because he believed in a strong central government as minor. A March refresher:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Don't Mess With Textbooks
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Reform

Well, the bad news is, the changes officially passed into the books just last week to little fanfare, unless watching a purchased school board discussing the UN takeover of America being taught in the classrooms is exciting (Don McLeroy a name to remember - not, I love that second guy though). No, the bad news is that they'll be teaching kids that the founding fathers never intended complete separation of church and state. No wait, the really bad news is that changes made to Texas history books will affect what much of the nation will have their children taught as publishing companies cater to the state's needs seeing as its such a big customer.

Don't let us forget neighbor Arizona is making matters even worse rallying to the Faux News banner of illegals stealing jobs and killing white folk turning the state into a Goebbels' paradise. Am I using a wingnut jedi nazi trick? Um, does the Catholic Church protect paedophiles? Wingnut supporters of their new anti-immigration law wrap themselves in the Constitution while taking away the cover the document offers society's most vulnerable. SB 1070 requires cops in Arizona to stop anyone appearing Latino on reasonable grounds that they are committing a criminal act because if they are undocumented they have been redefined as a criminal by merely being in the state. Isn't racial profiling through circular arguments fun!

Thedeafening march of blackboots is almost enough to drown out the screaming contortions caused by having a Miss USA with Palestinian roots. Releasing the hounds and screaming "Git (sic) her, she's different!". Aaah, fear of the other combined with a little intolerance and you've got the perfect wingnut recipe. Take the proposal to build a Muslim cultural center a couple blocks from ground zero. Somehow they still don't get the fact that being able to build it was what made America great, instead they're calling on 'true Americans' to blow it up if it's built. Better yet, instead of the community center, a monument should be built to "victims of hundreds of millions of years of jihadi wars, land enslavements, cultural annihilations and mass slaughter." Ah yes, the classic wingnut response, treating numbers like putty, turning history on its head and oblivious to the irony of being suggested as the cost of their crusade-like response to 9/11 passes the trillion dollar mark.

Right wingnuts don't even have to answer questions, simply make baseless accusations to stun and distract the public. Easy enough when they're playing to an audience where educated might mean graduating from a place like Liberty University which bans Democrats, campus organizing, distribution of unapproved literature, viewing most movies and playing of music that's "offensive to Liberty's Christian stand". The kind of place that  invites Glenn Beck to give commencement speeches where he can take his president's words out of context. At least he avoided hawking gold while fomenting distrust in the central government and left out the part where he rails against the social justice preached in the gospel or that socialist Jesus, guess they don't have that kind of stuff in his Book of Mormon.

See, wingnuttery preys on the believers' naivety, finding fertile ground in religious belief. Politicians trumpeting social conservatism will always play well to some, never mind that their homophobia most likely stems from same-sex arousal, or that their family values preaching doesn't seem to jibe with their adulterous ways. Yes, I'm talking to you Rep. Mark Souder, Sens. John Ensign and David Vitter and Gov. Mark Sanford and, well, you get the picture. Right-wingnut hypocrisy when it comes to sex is even worse than the libertarians who would have the government's hands all over the uterus but it all makes sense when you realize the congregation is led by preachers who believe they can cure homosexuality that take jaunts to Europe with rented boy toys. I know, that ain't nothing, if we we're only reviewing March's wingnuttery we could go after the Rat and his minions a bit, but we're not, and I'm chomping at the bit for Israel, the land where the neoliberal meets the neocon.

Why? Well, again, in case you missed it, we now have proof that the Israeli wingnuts hooked up the South African apartheid nutters with nukes. Yeah, I know, Israel hasn't signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty so that means they can't even have nukes. What? That doesn't mean they don't? Yike! Well, shouldn't it freak us out then that Shimon Peres was dealing them to PW Botha all the way back in the 70's? Shouldn't Israeli's themselves find it awkward remembering that their country welcomed a Nazi sympathizer, former South African Prime Minister John Vorster, back in April of 1976 to iron out the details. Well, after visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, where he laid a wreath to the victims of the German Reich he once extolled. Does no one care that Israel aided the oppression of the black majority, nuclear missiles no less, um, do you think maybe it's Israeli wingnuttery that is getting in the way of dealing with Iran honestly. Why is it that the Israeli lobby has been so successful? Guilt and obfuscation. With rhetorical flourishes any anti-Israel statement is turned into an anti-semitism. Somehow questioning how a nation whose very existence is due to atrocities committed can commit those very same atrocities makes one an anti-Semite. In order to keep the truth hidden, wingnuts must also keep those who speak the truth silent, or at least quiet.

The likes of Noam Chomsky can be denied entry trying to cross the Allenby Bridge from Jordan with his daughter to deliver a scheduled lecture at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank. Silencing a critic who had spoken at Israeli universities in the past most likely because of his saying "supporters of Israel are in reality supporters of its moral degradation" after the 2008/9 war in Gaza seems a little anti-freedom. I mean this is Noam Chomsky. My English students only know him for his linguistics books, after all he was and is one of the smartest men of our times. How do the wingnuts keep his political views so silent? Oh yeah, the entry denial thing. Totalitarian regime thing. Oh, and the wingnuts supporting the guys selling them the bombs who want to keep tensions ratcheted up in the region to guarantee a steady flow of profits from killing innocent people along with a few crazies. Keep illegally building in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories, quietly balancing the numbers, putting up an illegaconcentration camp fence barrier in the West Bank and building apartheid road networks and eventually people won't even remember that two national groups claim the right to self-determination in what used to be Palestine. All the nutter faithful see are towel headed terrorists, not a people being methodically exterminated by a more powerful master. Doesn't seem like Apartheid South Africa at all, no reason for an Israel Apartheid Week every year.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's chief wingnut, er, foreign minister, wants to require Israeli Arabs to sign a loyalty oath. Loyalty to a government that has maintained a stranglehold over Gaza for more than two years, a blockade to slowly starve and dehumanize the population. Slower and more painful than the gas chambers I guess. The Gaza War that bridged 2008 and 2009, or Israeli Operation Cast Lead, not only saw Israel commit war crimes, but was preceded by the sealing of all entry points to Gaza, severely hindering efforts to deal with the injured. Unbelievably this situation has continued until today, and if heaven forbid you call a spade a spade and compare Gaza to a concentration camp, you get called a Palestinian propagandist, even if you're a Catholic cardinal. Another flotilla is trying to break the siege, this time number six ships, 700 activists, over 10,000 tons of aid and one Nobel laureate, but will most likely be stopped by the Israeli navy. It has somehow become normalized over the last three years that Israel determines what the 1.5 million citizens of Gaza can and can't have. Frozen salmon yes, cilantro no. Of course Israel fears the latest flotilla attempt as it never looks good for soldiers to block people trying to bring the essentials of life, but what are they gonna do? Once a wingnut, always a wingnut.

Better cut this rambling rant off now before I lose some readers (sigh, resigned laugh here). We've clearly entered a new phase of the culture war, where guns, gays and god still have their part to play, but this time in a battle for the survival, not just economic and political, but as a species. Even recent history has seen momentous turning points as witnessed in Berlin, Tianamen and Pretoria about 20 years ago. It only takes a pebble to start an avalanche and the pebbles being kicked around seem to be getting bigger and bigger from the financial meltdown through to the gulf disaster. When faced with overwhelming evidence that something no longer works, a rational person changes tack, tries something new, whereas it's clear that a wingnut only wants to maintain the status quo in order to enrich himself. America is truly the Wingnuts-R-US of the world, wielding so much influence over so many that nothing short of armageddon will get them to change their ways as seen by the chart on the right. Yet it's hard not to notice that the scale of crises has become too big and if we don't find a way to get through to the wingnuts of no, the next one could prove to be the big one and it'll be too late. This is a teachable moment to remind us that "the role of government is to do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves." After all, even hillbillies can learn a new tune.


Jim said...

Hi Shane...

Couldn't pass thru without commenting that wingnuts, like all other nuts, can be threaded either right- or left-handed. Enjoyable as it may be, focusing solely on the Faux News- consumin', Palin and Paul-lovin' jedi nazi motherfuckers is to ignore the efforts of those wingnuts whose thread is differently oriented.

Let us rather celebrate the diversity of wingnuts of all persuasions. Without them, we would never know how right we are!

I think Steelers Wheel probably nailed it!

One last little issue... Chomski ffs?? You can do better than that! :-)

Shane said...

Hey Jim, long time no see. Seems I need to post about wingnuts to get you to comment. As I said in the intro, I don't make any apologies for the one-sidedness in my posts. I'm sure that the right wingnuts see the Olbermanns and Maddows of the world in a somewhat similar way that I see the Becks and Limbaughs of the world. But, that's where the similarity ends. Thing is, these political labels don't make much sense once you've taken the blinders off. I guess I'd see the Keiths and Rachels as being slightly left, Obama a centrist (even leaning right, at least when it comes to war and Israel). Stuck in the middle? I'm afraid I'm not, you'll find me inching ever closer to that far left extreme, especially when we shift to economics, convinced that capitalism has reached the end of it's usefulness with a warped reward structure that has us well on the way to self-destruction.

I'll usually side with those MSNBCers on issues that come up in the discourse allowed in the MSM as they represent the only hope we seem to have for some kind of progress. On the other hand, it might have been fun to see what a few more years of Republican power would've done to America. I do find myself wishing they'd have had the chance to run it right into the ground. Instead we get to see the current administration running around trying to put out fires set long ago. Progressive policies are practically non-existent. Health care? Just a get-rich scheme for the insurance industry that pretends to bring America into the 20th century. Financial/ environmental/ political/ educational/ legal/ you-name-it reform. Fuggetaboutit.

BTW can you fill me in on the Chomsky ffs? Missed the reference.

Jim said...

hi Shane,

I agree that the Manichean, polemical defining of political beliefs as being left - or right-wing are generally less than helpful.
I also agree that the middle-of-the-road is generally only a useful position for those who harbour an aspiration to be roadkill!

As for my own position? As a young man my heart and instincts would have seen me in the Libertarian camp, but this youthful optimism has been replaced over time by an uncomfortable realisation that the problems facing the human race will only be ameliorated by the ever-increasing population acting in harmony. I have come to believe that narrow tribalism, nationalism and political/religious affinities are a barrier that the human race must overcome if we are to prosper in an ever-shrinking world. Sadly, however, I put the chances of this happening as being somewhere between zero and fuck-all!

Economically, I believe that capitalism is a busted flush.... we lack the will to properly and effectively regulate a capitalist system, and if we fail to regulate it will simply do what capitalism does: i.e. Look for the weakest group to exploit without any consideration outside of profit. When we run out of easy groups of poor people to exploit; when we start to see the relatively wealthy being asked to give up their toys; when the ethical choices we make under the guise of economic expediency become harder to conceal.... that's when the fun starts!

For your delectation I offer the words of Mr Eugene Debs. In the first half of this speech he expresses beautifully the unforgivable and unneccessary plight of the industrial poor. In the second half he waxes lyrical about the prospects, indeed the inevitability of a natural revolution. A century later, we're still waiting.

In very truth gold is god today and rules with pitiless sway in the affairs of men."

Eerily familiar, n'est ce pas?
Plus ca change, and all that.

PS. As for Chomsky, that's a personal beef for me.... The man is a brilliant linguist but politically naive. His pronouncements vis a vis Cambodia, Israel, Faurisson et al lead me to think he is best left in the hallowed groves of academe and not allowed out into the real world.
Perhaps a seat on the plane next to Malcolm Caldwell might have opened his eyes a little!

Best Wishes


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